31 March. That used to be The Date. The Date that was going to be the end of it all. The pinnacle. The salvation. The promise of a beginning of what could be life outside work. In a Big 4 audit firm. The cut off point that you fixed your mind on to salvage some spirit during the numerous all-nighters and near all-nighters you slaved through in the "busy season".
And even though you had a crap Christmas just thinking about "busy season" coming your way, it was possible to find courage and thank God for the small mercies. Like the first couple of weeks of January when the client Finance department is still working on cooking the books and you are just cruising through what can only be described as the calm before the storm while skilfully rolling forward prior year files.
Then as you are still rolling forward, the storm rolls in and engulfs you.
The storm with its multiple faces. With the demands of grumpy client staff who often have no time for you but find time to want things of you, as well as to leave for home bang on time at 5pm. Oh, the rush to the lifts at that point - it was enviable, if only we could also do that!
The storm with the need to endure the countless unreasonable requests (orders?) of partners who sometimes were not your “partners” at all, but who instead spoke and acted like they kick the ball for the other team.
The storm with the drain on your resources that were the audit juniors. Who just like a big umbrella supposed to protect you from the elements, only tires your hand, until eventually you pack it up and face the music alone.
The storm with its smells of Wagamama and Pizza Express take-aways as dinner and bedtime hours come and go by while you work on the next audit working paper, whispering "Good night!" to you sweetheart over the phone.
But I mean, you could kind off mobilize all inner strength to get through it all. Because as the storm rolled in, so did the days to 31 March. The filing and reporting deadline. Every little inconvenience along the way, every single late night, every single coffee drunk to keep your eyelids somewhat open and your brain somewhat sharp in the darkness, brought you closer to it. 31 March - the end, the pinnacle, the salvation. So you got your grip and did it. Never for one minute letting the thought of 31 March leave your mind and your wildest dreams (for this is as wild as they come in "busy season").
Some years you would even have Easter on the other side of the threshold to live for. Possibly a holiday. Some years the calendar lottery screwed you over and Easter fell in March and you knew for well that under no circumstances would holiday and time off be a possibility. While the world celebrated Spring, you were still be locked away clearing open review notes. Even then, in these grave circumstances 31 March was still "It".
And then these jokers, the Regulators, come along and change the filing deadlines to give more time to these other jokers, the Client finance team, to be able to cope with the extra reporting requirements. Or something. So no more 31 March. The goal post has shifted. And it feels like the only April fools out there are actually - right here. At least there is only 30 days in April. Oh, the small mercies.